Cordyceps sinensis is a highly sought after Himalayan medicinal mushroom that grows in Bhutan at elevations above 14,000 feet. The spores of the mushroom attack the ghost moth caterpillar that lives underground, mummify the host, and grow dramatically out of its head. Due to its high demand and rarity, Cordyceps can cost up to $10,000 per pound.
Cordyceps Sinensis is a unique and exotic mushroom that grows in the mountains of Bhutan at an elevation between 14,500 feet and 17,000 feet, just meters below the snow line. Cordyceps sinensis literally means summer plant and winter insect in Tibetan. Before the rainy season begins, spores of the Cordyceps mushroom settle on the heads of caterpillars’ that lives underground. The fungus gets so much into the body of the caterpillars’ that it grows out through its head and drains all the energy from the insect and ultimately it dies.
Cordyceps Sinensis has a long history in Tibet Medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. The mushroom has been used for centuries to address and treat various health conditions and to maintain normal functions of all the body systems. To go to where the Cordyceps is, you have to travel for no less than seven days by horse, on foot, and finally by yak up to the snow line where the wild Cordyceps grows. The air is so thin at that altitude and the elements are so harsh that most westerners never make it to this destination.
Bhutan implemented sustainable harvest guidelines several years ago to protect the environment, the sustainability of the Cordyceps and the collectors. Only skilled local villagers from the Cordyceps growing areas are permitted to collect this special fungus. Harvesting is limited to one month a year, timed at a specific point in the growing cycle to ensure maturity and sustainability, and is overseen by local leaders and forestry services, who also keep an eye out for poachers.